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Yonaguni Island

Yonaguni is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan. The 30 sq. km backwater is known for strong rice liquor, cattle, sugar cane and scuba diving. The government is sending 100 Ground Self-Defense Force members and radar to its western-most outpost, a tropical island off Taiwan, a deployment that risked angering China. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera broke ground 19 April 2014 for a military lookout station on the Okinawa island of Yonaguni, which is home to 1,500 people and just 150 km from the disputed Japanese-held Senkaku Islands claimed by China. The mini-militarization of Yonaguni — now defended by two police officers — is part of a long-standing plan to improve defense and surveillance in Japan’s far-flung frontier.

In 2009, Shukichi Hokama was re-elected mayor of the town after pledging to invite GSDF troops to the island. The Ministry of Defense finalized its decision in November 2010 to station around 100 Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) members [and perhaps as many family members] on Yonaguni Island. The Japanese government plans to complete the unit by the end of the fiscal 2015. The high-tech radar outpost will become operational in 2016.

With local debate having started several years earlier, the plan has been a focal issue in every subsequent election on the island, splitting its population into supporters and opponents. The people of Yonaguni had mixed feelings about their role in facing off against China. Previously GSDF members were not stationed any further west than the main island of Okinawa. Miyako has an Air Self-Defense Force radar site, but the area west of that is considered "a blind spot in national defense," according to a 2010 annual white paper released by the Defense Ministry. Building the radar base on the island, which is much closer to China than to Japan’s main islands, could extend Japanese monitoring to the Chinese mainland and track Chinese ships and aircraft circling the disputed islets, which China calls Diaoyu.

On 31 March 2014, Yonaguni town officially leased its land to the Ministry of Defense. According to town officials, the ministry will lease about 25 hectares of land, including about 21.4 hectares of municipal land. In 2014 fiscal year, after clearing the lands, the ministry will begin building a radar installation, housing for the Self-Defense Forces personnel, and a public athletics track and field and gym. The ministry will pay the local government about 15 million yen every year in rent. The managing expenses for the facilities development will be about 15.5 billion yen. The ministry visited the town government office on March 31 and confirmed the contents of the contract.

In National Defense Program Guidelines issued in December 2013, Japan’s remote-island strategy, set out in the guidelines, is to “intercept and defeat any invasion by securing maritime supremacy and air superiority” with swift deployments supplementing troops positioned in advance. “Should any remote islands be invaded, Japan will recapture them. In doing so, any ballistic missile or cruise missile attacks will be dealt with appropriately.”

Yonaguni Island has mountains, valleys and rivers, and abundant subtropical nature. It is also home to indigenous plants and animals. The Atlas moth, the largest moths in the world, and some rare wild birds can be seen on Yonaguni Island. The residents earn their living from fisheries, sugar cane cultivation, tourism, and some dairy farming. Horses and cattle are grazed in the pasture land near Agarizaki Point, on the east end of the island.

In 1986 Sou-Wes owner and dive master Kihachiro Aratake discovered what appeared to be the remains of a lost civilization under the seas surrounding the craggy and mysteriously beautiful island of Yonaguni. Yonaguni Island is renowned for the massive underwater rock formation about 100 m off the coast of Arakawabana. Although it is still unclear whether the rocks are a natural formation or an artificial construction, they do look like monuments submerged underwater.

Skeptics dismiss Yonaguni as just a natural rock formation, but many see it as plain evidence of an ancient seafaring culture the lost civilization of Atlantis. A symmetrical design of a human face 4 meters tall and 6 meters underwater and wearing a decorative head-dress is carved deep into the natural stone and faces due south as a sentinel for a platform known as the stone stage. This is but one peak of a much larger - and definitely man-made structure - the architecture remarkably reminiscent of Sacsayhuaman and Qenko in Peru - but on the other side of the Pacific - just 75 miles (125 km) east of Taiwan.

The structure is 120 meters long - 40 meters wide and 20-25 meters tall - and the base is 30 meters underwater. The many level and right-angled terraces give a first impression of an ancient port - with smaller steps for people to climb - - and larger recesses for boats to dock - and there are many features aligned to - the four cardinal directions of NSEW. The site has been roughly dated as being 3,000 to 10,000 years old as the most recent the structure's foundation was above sea level was at the end of the last Ice Age around 8000 BC.

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Page last modified: 19-04-2014 18:29:15 ZULU